The dream of an in-screen fingerprint scanner is over

The dream of an in-screen fingerprint scanner is over

TPROduction /

The fingerprint scanner under the screen should be excellent. Just place your finger on the touch screen anyway and the built-in sensor will unlock the phone.

A Brief History of Fingerprint Scanners

Fingerprint scanners first appeared in smartphones in 2010. Apple launched the iPhone 5S with a fingerprint scanner in 2013, and Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 4 a year later.

The first fingerprint readers use this capacitive technology. The sensor is covered with tiny electrodes, and the capacitance between the electrodes scans your fingerprint. It varies with the distance between the edges of the fingers.

By the end of 2010, the majority of smartphones had a fingerprint scanner. But change was coming. Apple started the move to facial recognition with Face ID in 2017. Meanwhile, Android manufacturer Vivo implemented its first in-screen fingerprint scanner.

Now Apple has largely abandoned fingerprint scanners for Face ID. Only the “retro” iPhone SE has Touch ID. While there are still many Android devices that have the original type of fingerprint scanner, in-screen scanners dominate “flagship” Android phones.

Related: What is face recognition?

The future of in-display fingerprint scanners

A person taps on a biometric app on a smartphone.
Pro Stock Studio /

The first smartphone with a fingerprint scanner, also known as an under-display fingerprint scanner, was the Vivo X20 Plus, which was launched in early 2018. It has a small camera.

I remember being very fascinated by this new concept. At the time, fingerprint scanners were commonly placed on the front and bottom edge of the phone. The in-display fingerprint scanner allowed it to sit on the front, but it didn’t take up space on the bezel.

It felt like a very futuristic feature. It’s cool to put your finger on the phone screen and have your finger scan and unlock automatically. No need to fiddle with the frame or a specific place on the back of the phone. Just touch the screen!

Of course, that’s how the first in-screen scanner didn’t work at all. You I did It usually requires placing your finger in a very specific place indicated by the fingerprint icon on the screen. It was also much slower than “older” fingerprint scanners.

But it was good. High-end technology always has its problems, but the possibilities are exciting. You can imagine a future where you don’t have to put your finger in a very specific place and wait a minute for it to be scanned.

The future you got instead

Justin Duino / How-to Geek

Fast forward to 2022 today. High-end Android smartphones with in-display fingerprint scanners are still in the market. Samsung has been using this technology since 2018. Google won’t have an in-screen scanner until the Pixel 6 in 2021.

Technology has improved in the past five years. In-screen scanners that do not have the best protection are gradually being replaced by in-display ultrasound scanners. It uses ultrasound pulses to map the fingerprint.

The problem is that these improvements are not big enough. Having an in-screen scanner in 2022 isn’t as significant an upgrade as I’d expect compared to 2018. In fact, I’d argue it’s still less than the “old” fingerprint scanner.

For example, Samsung’s newest and most popular series of smartphones, the Galaxy S22, features a built-in fingerprint scanner. You think that’s enough, right? Of course everyone’s experience is different, but for me it’s a deadline.

Oftentimes, I have to pass my finger on the scanner more than three times before it registers. It is very frustrating that I have Samsung’s face recognition turned on and it’s still not as good as Apple’s Face ID. Without the Smart Unlock feature in Android, this would have been more worrying.

Related: Google tries to justify the Pixel 6’s slow fingerprint scanner

hug your face

Justin Duino / How-to Geek

Apple seems to think facial recognition is the future, and after using Face ID, I agree. The possibility of having a scanner under the screen looked great, but the actual implementation left a lot to be desired.

It’s been almost five years since the first in-screen scanners appeared on smartphones. Why do they work better than old scanners on low-end Android phones?

In my experience, Face ID is as fast and reliable as old fingerprint scanners. Certainly not perfect. For example, it is less accurate while wearing a mask, but it is very good. But the big advantage of Face ID is that it is really secure.

On the iPhone, Face ID can be used as a security measure for things like App Store purchases. This is not the case with the facial recognition feature of Android phones. If you choose to use this method on the lock screen, you will need a secondary security method for things like purchases.

The dream of a phone with a full touch screen that you can scan your finger on could have been a great thing, but it just didn’t come true. It’s time to move on to something better.

Related: How to use Face ID with mask on iPhone

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